At the end of World War II the victorious powers founded the United Nations, with a noble goal: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The UN’s charter mission includes encouraging and promoting global peace and prosperity, “fundamental human rights” and “fundamental freedoms for all.”
Unfortunately, the UN has not lived up to these grand dreams. Not only has it fallen far short, but too often, on too many fronts, the UN has actively undermined basic freedoms and human rights, pandered to dictators, and fostered conditions that fuel rather than prevent conflict.
These persistent UN failings track back to fundamental flaws in its design. The UN might sound like a democratic institution, because its 193 member states vote to determine its course. But a majority of these countries are not fully free and democratic; some are outright tyrannies. And unlike a democratic government, the UN is not accountable to any coherent and enforceable legal jurisdiction or any genuinely empowered constituency of voters. There is no mechanism for reliably ensuring the UN complies with its own charter.
Nonetheless, in the name of maintaining a peaceful world order, the U.S. has served since the UN’s founding as both host to its New York headquarters, and chief financial patron of the UN system, bankrolling with U.S. tax dollars an outsized share of the UN’s ever expanding budget. The result has been to sustain and entrench a global institution where the agenda and activities often run counter to U.S. values and interests.